Whole 37.  Whole

then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;

– Psalm 51:19b

You know the clichés.    “Give it 100%”   “Give it everything you’ve got!”    “Put your whole self into it.”  Whether it’s sports, academics, a job or a relationship, there are times when we’re called to hold nothing back, to offer everything we have.

As we near the conclusion of Psalm 51, we continue with the psalm’s new affirmation (be it original or a later addition) of sacrifice.   Today’s part of verse 19 focuses on “burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings.”   I wonder if there is anything to the burnt offerings being ’whole’ that make the sacrifice pleasing or right?

Giving one’s all is a common thread through both the Old and New Testaments.  Jesus has an encounter with a scribe which captures the heart of the idea:

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 

Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’;  and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’– this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”   When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  (Mark 12:28-34)

Jesus is quoting the “shema” from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 which was a call to devote one’s whole self to God.  The scribe, ironically for our verse today, says that this all encompassing embrace of God and neighbor far outweighs all “whole burnt offerings.”   Which leaves us on this 37th day of Lent with the question:  How much of ourselves are we devoting to God?


Dear God,

As we follow the One to the cross who gave everything, help us to love you with everything we have — our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind and all our strength.